Taking a closer look at a photo

A photo is a picture of a particular moment captured in time. It doesn’t usually convey any deeper meaning or significance to someone who has never seen it before. If a photo is of something unusual or humorous or depicts something very moving then someone looking at the photo may experience an emotion which is beyond the visual. However, without any further information they cannot appreciate or understand what else may lie behind the photo. In this lesson Taking a closer look at a photo, you will learn how to start looking beyond a photo for hidden stories.

When you show your photos to family and friends you probably add in some background details and you may even have a few anecdotes or stories to tell about some of the photos. However. unless you scribble these details down, you will forget them. It is these extra details which can add so much more to the photo and provide the framework for a vignette, narrative or short story.

If you are working with photographs you have recently taken, you should not have too much difficulty filling in some background information. However, if you are working with older photographs and/or photographs you have not taken yourself, you may have to dig a bit deeper.

Finding the hidden stories

So how do you start to look behind a photo to find the hidden story? Well grab a piece of paper or open a new document on your computer and try to answer as many questions as you can in this lesson’s assignment. By asking yourself questions about what you can see in your photo you will soon find there all sorts of things to write about. You may have to do a bit of research to find answers to some of the questions but have fun trying to see how much you can discover.

Assignment 2

Below is a list of things you should do to complete Lesson 2:

  • Where did your photograph come from?
  • How did you acquire the photo?
  • How was the photo taken (film, digital, studio)?
  • How old is the photograph?
  • Are there any things about the photograph which tell you its age?
  • Do you know where the photograph was taken?
  • What is the subject of the photo?
  • What time of year is it?
  • Do you know who took the photo?
  • If there are any people in the photo do you know who they are?
  • Is it a formal portrait or an informal snapshot?
  • Is it a close up or a long shot?
  • Do you know why the photo was taken?

Before moving on the next lesson complete assignment 2 in your Writing the Stories Behind your Photos Workbook.

When you have completed the assignment, click here to go to Lesson 3 Digging even deeper.

Back to Lesson 1 Choosing a photo